Recycling gifts is universally frowned upon. Recycling gift ideas, on the other hand, is just plain smart. After all, many of last year's hottest gift ideas were hot for a reason: they're great items that anybody would be thrilled to receive.
With that in mind, we dug through last year's treasures to find out which have staying power to save you some time at the mall. Of course, there are a few whose shelf life has definitely expired. We've flagged those for you, too, so you can avoid embarrassment when gift-giving time arrives.
“Steve Jobs,” by Walter Isaacson. In the months leading up to the holidays last year, it was hard not to stumble upon massive displays of this hefty tome decorating bookstore windows and department storefronts across the country. The authorized biography of Apple's top dog piqued everyone's curiosity, making it the ideal gift for everyone from tech-savvy teenage boys to iPad-loving moms. Unfortunately, this is the type of gift that's really only hot for one season since everybody's read it (or heard about all of the juicy parts) already.
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. If you didn't scoop up this coveted game shortly after its November release date last year, you may have been out of luck, as many stores had trouble keeping it on the shelves. Don't even think about trying to sneak it under the tree now, though — any self-respecting gamer will have snapped it up long ago. This year, it's all about the latest incarnation, Call of Duty: Black Ops II.
Single Cup Home Coffee Brewers. Last year, Tassimo, Nespresso and Keurig single-cup home coffee brewers topped wish lists everywhere as old school brewers became increasingly passé. The single servings have only become more popular over the past year, so this is one gift idea that can definitely be recycled — especially now that Starbucks has released its own single-cup brewer.
Digital SLR Cameras. Aspiring shutterbugs set their sights on digital SLR cameras in a big way last year, which meant models like the Canon EOS Rebel T2i and the Nikon D5100 went flying off the shelves. Digital SLRs are still a great bet this year, too, as amateur photographers continue to lust after equipment that will help make them look like pros. Even better? Prices have dropped significantly over the past year.
Dance Star Mickey. With TV shows like So You Think You Can Dance dominating the airwaves, it seemed only natural that a toy with slick dance moves was one of last year's hottest holiday items. Sadly, Dance Star Mickey's 15 minutes of fame are up. Children have notoriously fickle attention spans, and Dance Star Mickey is already so 2011.
Xbox 360 Kinect. Some called it creepy, some called it the next big thing in gaming. Whatever you thought of it, though, there was no denying that the Xbox 360 Kinect was one of last year's most sought-after gaming consoles around the holidays. The system that makes you the controller is still remarkably popular, so it's a safe bet for this year. Just make sure your prospective recipient doesn't already have it!
Babycakes Cake Pop Maker. A cake pop maker may seem frivolous, but that's exactly why it's such a perfect gift (after all, it's a difficult purchase to justify for oneself, even for the baking enthusiast who must have everything). Cake pops were huge last year, which is why the Babycakes Cake Pop Maker "popped up" (sorry about that one) on so many wish lists in 2011. Their popularity hasn't dwindled much throughout 2012, so we say it's still a fabulous gift option for the Martha Stewart-types on your list, especially if you get to reap the sweet results.
E-Readers and Tablets. The iPad 2 was all the rage during last year's gift-giving season, but e-readers like the Kindle and Kobo didn't do too badly, either. While e-readers and tablets remain popular gift choices, you obviously can't get away with wrapping up last year's models. This year, check out the iPad Mini, Kobo Arc and HD Kindle Fire for your favourite media-loving recipient.
Smartphones. If you didn't have the iPhone 4S last year, then you were, well, part of the 70 per cent of the market not using Apple phones. But that doesn't mean the people on your list won't want to find an iPhone under the tree this year, whether it's the new 5, last year's model or the increasingly popular (and talked about) Android options from Samsung and LG.
Angry Birds Paraphernalia. They came in flocks, in the form of hats, T-shirts and live action board action, but how does the feathered cast of Angry Birds hold up one year later? While no other iPhone game has quite captured the attention of the world in the same way, we think it may be a bit of a last season fashion faux pas to sport any of their gimmicky goods.
Giant Watches For Women. The last holiday party season saw wrists adorned with enormous timepieces from the likes of Michael Kors, Armani, Marc Jacobs and Adidas, and that hasn't ceased in 2012. So if you happen to see one of last year's models for a good price, we suggest picking it up and presenting it like the gorgeous piece of jewelry it is. And by the way, the same applies to men's watches.